the moveable feasts

For weather like this: cold chocolate snacking cake

with 19 comments

cold chocolate snacking cake

I made this cake back in July, when I was still at home in the States. I would have posted about it back then, but as I foreshadowed in this post, I made it only a few days before leaving for Paris and I had quite a few other things on my mind to worry about. I don’t normally make stuff and then post about it significantly later—it seems weird to me, out of place—but I actually think this type of treat is perfect for this time of year. You get the occasionally chilly day where the idea of baking a cake sounds cozy, but there’s still plenty of warm days (or hot days, like last Friday’s 90-degree F weather) that would gladly welcome a chilled dessert. So, I think it actually works out better that I’m sharing this cake now. Plus, you know, I haven’t really cooked anything besides buttered pasta since these chocolate chip cookies, and a stand-in recipe is just the thing I need. WIN-WIN.

This doesn’t quite fit in with my past few weeks in France, though. I don’t think a “snacking cake” is something that exactly translates into my life here in France. Yes, there is the goûter eaten at approximately 4 or 5 pm every day by the kids, which involves some sort of petit gâteau, biscuit or cookie along with some fruit. I suppose something like this could be served during that time, but I think it is much more likely that it would be relegated, like most sweet things, for dessert. Following dinner and fromage, this dessert would be sliced up, served around the table, and eaten together. Some people might take seconds, if it’s good. But any remaining cake would, no doubt, be wrapped up and returned to the fridge, awaiting the following evening when the whole process would repeat itself.

just the cake

This is entirely different than the way things progressed when I made this cake at home in Washington. Back there, this sort of sweet has a purpose of its own: it is to be enjoyed at all hours of the day, and for no reason. It remains in the fridge with a butter knife placed strategically alongside it, resting peacefully for its next visitor. My whole family will take turns (some more than others, cough-cough-dad-cough) opening up the fridge and attempting to take slivers of the cake before giving in to a proper slice. It is just the sort of thing we like to take wedges of after dinner, too, but I think we were only able to do this one night. The day-snacking makes pretty big dents in the cake, after all.

It is just the type of eating-snacking that my family loves to do. I miss it, but mostly just for sentimental reasons. As in, I basically just miss my family, but not so much the actual part about snacking on cake all day long—if you can believe it. I quite like the eating routine I’ve settled into here in France. All the food is shut up in cupboards or in the fridge, and it’s not exactly of the snacky sort (as in, there’s no big bags of chips and salsa lying around like back home in the US). However, dinner lasts a long time, and the multiple courses end in fromage and then yogurt and fruit and then perhaps a sweet, most nights.

But still, I really do like this chocolate cake recipe, and I think it was pretty brilliant of Sue to harken back to the Sara Lee chocolate cake days by laying a thick frosting on it and placing it in the fridge. It has an air of American nostalgia surronding it, for sure. But it makes you wonder why this sort of thing isn’t more common—some things are just so much better cold, and straight from the fridge. In this case, the cake moist and slightly squidgy, but dry enough to be sliced and slivered properly.

And what I think is actually convenient with this specific cake recipe is that it has a pretty intense chocolate flavor. This means that means I don’t end up eating half the cake in a one-hour span—it’s just impossible, it’s too rich. It’s like it has a built-in pacing device. Once again, it’s a win-win: you eat delicious cold chocolate cake as a snack, the richness is ensures that it remains a snack instead of a substitution for a meal. Unless you want it to.

PS: A matter of extreme importance — Speaking of weather that is neither hot nor cold, I’m out of music to listen to. I tend to veer towards pop or weirdo-indie-but-mainstream stuff in the summertime, when the weather is warm and I feel like listening to something upbeat. In the winter, as you might remember, I go through all sorts of turns through darker, weirder music which knows no time era or socially acceptable bounds. Right now, they both don’t feel quite appropriate. What are you guys listening to? New, old, whatever! Let me know, because I’m kind of desparate.

tools to snack at

One Year Ago: Chicken Liver Pâte
Two Years Ago: Chewy Cherry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Cold Chocolate Snacking Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart & Sue at The View From Great Island
Makes one 7- by 11-inch cake, or an 8- by 12-inch cake

Yes, this cake is baked in a slightly nonconventional pan. Sue did this to attain a thinner cake, one more akin to the classic Sara Lee kind with the layer of chocolate frosting on top. If you don’t have a 7×11 or 8×12-inch cake or tart pan, I would just use an 8×8 pan and bake it for longer. You’ll just have an extra thick layer of frosting (oh boo hoo) and cake.

Chocolate Cake
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, well chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted to remove any clumps

First, make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 7×11 or an 8×12 cake or tart pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt until smooth, making sure to press out any cocoa powder lumps. Set aside.

In a medium-large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure scrape the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add in the vanilla and blend to combine. On low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with a quarter cup of sour cream after the first and second flour additions.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake/tart pan, and tap the pan against the counter a couple times to make sure any air bubbles within the batter are released. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to rest in the pan on a wire rack until completely cool, at least a good hour or so. Once cool, store in the fridge (both before and after it gets its frosting layer).

When the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl, heat the cream in the microwave on high heat until simmering, about a minute and a half (check every 15 seconds or so). Add in the chopped chocolate and allow to sit in the hot cream for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk to blend, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder, and continue to whisk until the mixture is completely smooth and glossy. Place in the fridge to chill and solidify, for at least an hour and a half. Once solidified enough to be decently spreadable, scrape onto the chilled cake and spread into an even layer. Return the now frosted cake back into the fridge to set for at least an hour. Serve cold, any time of day.

big square

Written by Amy

September 9, 2013 at 5:21 am

Posted in Cakes

Tagged with ,

19 Responses

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  1. i love this post for a couple reasons. First the cake sounds scrumptious. Second I’m a sucker for hearing about the French attitude towards food and meals. I was just thinking it was time to stop with the snacking (I made my way through 4 pound cakes, sliver by sliver, in the first couple weeks after Alice’s birth) and reread French Women Don’t Get Fat as it’s about time I make an attempt at losing a few of these post-pregnancy pounds. I love reading about your adventures – keep them coming.


    September 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

    • Ah thanks Talley. It’s so nice to hear from you! I’m a complete sucker for the whole French-lifestyle and all of its benefits that we are repeatedly being told about — but I do feel like you are in the very special and very rare position to eat whatever you want with zero guilt because, really, you just made a whole human! (a really really cute one at that!) I do know that this position has an end though… I’ll keep you posted on how all these Parisiennes are so thin and beautiful. ;)

      Also: I have to tell you, I’ve spent about 3 hours in the past few days re-reading old posts of yours. I miss your blog, and it is especially inspiring me lately. Hope you’re well x


      September 9, 2013 at 10:39 am

  2. I am in love with this cake, and this post. Snacking cakes are my absolute favorite, but I don’t bake them often enough. Living alone and being the only snacker probably has something to do with it. Snack cakes + just one person will inevitably lead to overindulgence! I like the sounds of your eating routine in Paris – those long lingering dinners sound pretty darn fabulous.
    Oh! And for music – I’m not sure if these suggestions will be up your alley or not, but…lately I am loving the two albums by Whitehorse, as well as Hey Ocean’s new album. Oh yes, and also Of Monsters and Men.

    Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    September 9, 2013 at 9:39 am

    • Yes, I definitely know what you mean about the snacking cake dangers when living alone. I think that’s how I gained a few pounds during college. ;) And thank you for the music recommendations!! I’ll be checking them out.


      September 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

  3. Amy, Had a similar cake with cappuccino in Venice this afternoon. Ask your mom to forward you the picture from my post. Love hearing about Paris from you.

    Sylvia Wallen

    September 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

    • Thanks Sylvia, loved your comment. I’ll have my mom send me the picture.


      September 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

    • Yes, I saw that beautiful slice of cake in front of you Sylvia! Looks just like Amy’s chocolate snacking cake. YUM


      September 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm

  4. I am drooling over your pictures- this cake looks delicious. YUM! Thanks for sharing!!


    September 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

  5. Amy, I really like your reflections on the different sweets rituals at home and in France! I didn’t realize that eating was quite so regimented there. I am constantly snacking. I don’t think I’d be able to get through the day otherwise. Maybe I just need to manage my time better? Listen to my body? Back at home, did you ever find yourself starving and trying to make dinner and shoving snacks in your face so that you could actually finish making dinner? That happens a lot around here…

    I am not really one for chocolate cake, but if you maybe wanted to make something chocolatey for the kiddies’ snack time, I would suggest David Lebovitz’s chocolate yogurt snack cakes. Even I couldn’t resist eating more than one of these.

    I can go without listening to music for long stretches of time (weird, I know), but Octavian has been playing The National’s new album, Trouble Will Find Me, a lot lately. It’s broody and indie, maybe a mix of your summer and winter modes?


    September 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

    • Um, back at home I always cooked when I was already near-starving, so shoving snacks in my face as I was cooking, whatever they were, was a common thing for sure. I would even still do that here, if I didn’t have people around me as I was preparing dinner. And the fear that my host parents would know certain foods were missing, haha.

      Haha yes I know you don’t really like chocolate! And this cake is rich in flavor, too. Thanks for the link though – those look awesome. I also (still) want to make your nigel slator chocolate beet cake. I have a feeling I’d really, really like that one.

      And The National is one of, if not the, favorite band of Lindsey. I haven’t heard any of their new album so I’ll be looking into that. Thanks Katie


      September 10, 2013 at 10:53 am

  6. I don’t know why I feel nostalgic for American foods when I grew up on the other side of the world (thanks, TV!) but this cake totally made sense to me. Food is such an important part of feeling connected to where you’re from – when I lived in England and worked at a boarding school I really missed a few specific things that reflected how my family ate, that were completely different over there.

    Oooooo new music. Have you listened to any Laura Marling? I am obsessed with her latest record, I just keep flipping it over and over. If you need an ‘in’, try I Am A Master Hunter. Also um, Roar by Katy Perry has a bizarrely addictive, effective chorus. Also, I recommend Aaradhna, try her song Wake Up first if you like – it’s very doo-woppy and upbeat but the rest of the album fits well in that mid-seasonal what-am-I-even-feeling vibe.


    September 16, 2013 at 10:32 am

    • Yesss, I shoulda known you were going to come through to me with music. Have heard OF Laura Marling, but never her actual music, I’ll give that a go. And I’m a huge Katy Perry fan so I can’t believe I haven’t heard Roar yet. Thanks !

      Yes I love how food is so connected to certain places and times. Already I feel like the food I’m settling in to Paris with is so completely different than my food in the States – even though I was such a Francophile back there.


      September 17, 2013 at 12:17 am

  7. I’m so convinced that snack cake tastes way better when cut into slivers. Perhaps you could try to teach your host family the ways of the sliver..they’d probably be horrified. :)

    I’ve been so out of touch with music being out of the country. I listened to a lot of Norah Jones, Death Cab, and Tokyo Police Club on the airplane because that’s what they had. I’m looking forward to my Spotify binges at work to get back into it. I was listening to Robin Bacior, Lord Huron, and John K. Samson a lot before I left. Robin is a Portlander, so maybe it’ll remind you of home a little bit.


    September 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    • Haha I just don’t think my host family would “get it”! It’s funny how some eating habits are so ingrained in a culture and/or family.

      And thanks for your music recs! Yes, I am looking forward to getting wifi and having access to my spotify too (I’m considering paying for a premium membership and I hate paying for things but it seems important haha).


      September 19, 2013 at 12:33 am

      • I finally caved to get the $5/month one that gets rid of ads on the desktop version. I could handle the ads for condoms or Tampax (at work no less), but the Lowe’s one was on the verge of driving me insane. They finally figured out what would get me.

        That said, if you use end up using it with regularity, I’d say it’s absolutely worth it.


        September 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

  8. Oh gosh, you’re making me crave it all over again!

    Sue/the view from great island

    September 26, 2013 at 5:40 am

  9. I found this from Tumblr, and I think I’ll be baking it in the next couple of weeks.

    As for music, I think Jeff Buckley is perfect for autumn and grey days….then again I live in the Northeast so that’s what grey days mean to me. Listen to Grace and maybe grab his Live at Sin-e album too.


    October 15, 2013 at 5:56 am

    • Michael! Have you read my about me? Jeff Buckley is one of my favorite things… ever. Live at the Sin-e is one of my favorite albums (and the sweet thing cover of his is one of my favorite songs). I love finding fellow Jeff Buckley fans — thanks for your comment! And let me know how you like the cake.


      October 15, 2013 at 11:14 am

  10. […] little extra calories and happiness to your day to get you through until dinnertime. They’re goûter material, basically. They don’t seem overly gluttonous, but maybe that’s just because […]

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